For the third straight year, Yuval Solomon has reached the boys tennis state championship final.
The top-seeded Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK senior, who won the 2016 title, defeated No. 4 Ryan Fishback of Geneva 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals on Friday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to earn his bid. He ousted Scarsdale’s Luke Smith 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals earlier in the day.
With a victory over No. 2 Sean Wei of Yorktown on Saturday, Solomon would become just the seventh Nassau County boys tennis player to win two state championships, according to the county’s tennis handbook.
“That’s big,” said Solomon, whose championship match is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the same location. “I would like to join that list, but we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I’ll play my match, play the same way I’ve played my whole life, stay aggressive, go after every ball and fight to the end.”
Solomon, who is committed to play tennis at national power Wake Forest, struggled early in his quarterfinal match. After winning the first game, he dropped three of the next four to fall into a 2-3 hole. But he found his stride and won the first set 6-4 before cruising in the second.
“He does warm up,” coach Nick Ventimiglia said. “He does get stronger. His serve got better and better and better (Thursday) and today. His second set was really much stronger than his first.”
In that second set, the freshman Fishback battled Solomon into long games, but Solomon almost always outlasted his opponent.
“He’s not going to blow you away in four straight shots, but he’s a strategic, dominant player,” Ventimiglia said. “You get a few games from him, and he just kind of like figures out what to do and he does it.”
After three Nassau County players reached the singles quarterfinals, Solomon was the only one to advance to the semifinals. Fishback defeated No. 6 Pete Siozios of New Hyde Park 7-6 (5), 6-3, and No. 3 Hayden Cassone of John Jay Cross River defeated No. 8 Rajan Vohra of North Shore 7-5, 7-6 (6).
In the doubles bracket, No. 3 Preet Rajpal and Eli Grossman of Syosset and No. 4 Sangjin Song and Zachary Khazzam of Roslyn each fell in the semifinals. They will face each other Saturday morning for third place.
“I’m excited,” Rajpal said. “It definitely shows how much we as a team and we as a tennis school have put in on and off the court. To get here is a program win, not just for Eli and myself. We’re very happy with that, but we still have another match to play.”
After a dominant first day, No. 7 Tyler Nierman and Cameron Klepper of Half Hollow Hills West fell to No. 1 James Wei and Dylan Glickman of Horace Greeley 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
“At the end of the day it just comes to experience, and you could tell they were comfortable here and they’ve been here before,” Nierman said. “This was our first time here, and our whole time up here we haven’t had competition like that.”